LIMA — Fireworks are like those canisters of fried onions for green bean casserole at Thanksgiving: People want them when they want them, and the rest of the year, there isn’t much call for the explosives that light up the sky.
“How about on July 3?” Waleed Saab asks. “We’ll give you extra and give you a discount. No. July 4.”
That makes Saab a busy man from about June 25 through July 10. As an electrical engineer and chief technician for New Castle, Pa., firm Zambelli Co., Saab has set off fireworks for 20 years, many of those for Lima’s Star Spangled Spectacular.
He comes back year after year when he can because Lima treats him like family, he said. He likes the people he works with, from the firefighters to the volunteers who offer up water and sandwiches.
Saab, who is Lebanese, has a family history intertwined between his two countries, Lebanon and the United States. A fast talker and a known joker, Saab is a story teller. It must pass the time during the work of setting up fireworks, which is tedious and meticulous.
His grandfather emigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1860s, but he went back to his native country in the early 1900s to check on some of the family property. Then World War I came, making an ocean-crossing trip back to the United States nearly impossible. Some of Saab’s family ended up staying put and spreading throughout Europe, while others remained in the United States.
“We breed like rabbits,” he says, telling this tale as he twists electric wire and tapes down foil over dozens of canisters that hold tonight’s fireworks.
In 1983, Saab’s sister’s American husband was killed in the Beirut bombings. He accompanied his sister to the United States and called a cousin, whom he never had met. Dozens of his relatives from America showed up at the funeral, he said. Saab stayed and made the United States his home.
“I got a job, got married. I’ve been all over. I think the U.S. is the best place in the world to live,” Saab said. “There’s always work here. If you can’t get off your derriere and find work, it’s not my problem.”
Saab’s work is shooting off Lima’s fireworks. If you think the view from the bowl of Faurot Park is good, Saab’s is larger than life.
“You feel your bones crackle,” he said. “Your teeth rattle. I like the variety. I like to mix it up. It’s not so much about the length of a show, it’s about the ‘wow.’ This year is spectacular.”
17th Annual Star Spangled Spectacular
Presented by The Lima News, city of Lima, St. Rita’s Medical Center, WLIO and Superior Federal Credit Union
• 8:30 a.m.: Abilities league baseball game, Diamond 2
• 9 a.m.: Freedom 5K run/walk, registration opens at 7 a.m.
• 10 a.m.: Volleyball tournament, sand volleyball courts
• Noon: Family kickball tournament, Diamonds 4 and 5
• Noon to 10 p.m.: Food booths/concessions
• 1 to 6 p.m.: All-star baseball games, Diamond 2
• 1 to 11 p.m.: Free shuttle from St. Rita’s Medical Center
• 1 p.m.: Children’s fishing derby, Bear Pit Lake
• 1:30 p.m.: Magician Mike Hemmelgarn, Pavilion Stage
• 2 p.m.: Cornhole tournament, in front of Pavilion Stage
• 2 p.m.: B-3 Band, Pavilion Stage
• 3 p.m.: Lima Locos vs. Lexington doubleheader, Simmons Field
• 3 p.m.: Children’s petting zoo
• 3 to 9 p.m.: Children’s rides
• 3:30 p.m.: Magician Mike Hemmelgarn, Pavilion Stage
• 4 p.m.: Encore Theatre cast of “Footloose,” Pavilion Stage
• 4:30 p.m.: Magician Mike Hemmelgarn, Pavilion Stage
• 5 p.m.: Exploit, Pavilion Stage
• 7 p.m.: Encore Theatre cast of “Footloose,” Main Stage
• 8 p.m.: The Lima Symphony Orchestra, Main Stage
• 7:30 p.m.: Parade/flag pass out
• 10 p.m.: Fireworks, sponsored by Tom Ahl, The Union Bank, Huntington Bank, Citizens National Bank and Topmark Federal Credit Union. Tune in to 92.1 FM, 93.1 FM, 104.9 FM, 107.1 FM, 940 AM and visit www.LimaOhio.com for live accompaniment and webcast of fireworks.
Getting there, and getting back out
• Your best bet is the free shuttle running between St. Rita’s Medical Center and Faurot Park, beginning at 1 p.m. The shuttle drops you at North Shore Drive and Collett Street and takes you back after the fireworks. No other traffic is allowed on Collett Street.
• General parking is available after 3 p.m. in the grass lot at Woodlawn Cemetery, entering at Cole Street and North Shore Drive.
• The handicapped parking area is next to Diamond 2 at Cole and North Shore. A small city bus will shuttle handicapped visitors down to the bowl, where the main stage is set up, and return them to their vehicles after the festival.
• Bicycles are not allowed in Faurot Park on July 4. If you ride to the park, you must leave your bike at a bike rack.
• Street parking in the neighborhoods surrounding the park is available, if you can find it.
The view from here
Good views of the fireworks are available nearly everywhere in the park. The bowl area near the main stage with the Lima Symphony Orchestra live performance is the best place. Many people also watch near the pavilion stage, and speakers to hear the symphony will be placed there.